Rugby matters put in perspective by death of Garden-Bachop

There is a sombre mood at Highlanders headquarters as they continue to come to terms with the sudden death of one of their players.

Rugby matters have been put in perspective for a period by the death of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop on Monday at the age of 25.

"I think everyone’s been in shock," Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said yesterday.

"Connor had a really infectious personality and was a big part of this place. He spent a lot of time in the office, so all of our people had a soft spot for him.

"It has hit home pretty hard."

Highlanders players are on holiday after their season-ending loss in the Super Rugby quarterfinals was followed by a few days of reviews and meetings.

Several players have left town, but about 16-17 had come into the Highlanders offices on Tuesday to spend some time together to grieve, Clark said.

"We had a big group in and did a nice karakia and had a bit of a chat and just pulled everyone together.

"The most important thing for us is supporting all of our people. Because they’re all hurting.

"When you lose someone so young in your family — and we are just a big family — it has a different impact on different people, and we’re conscious of that."

Highlanders outside back Connor Garden-Bachop warms up during a match against the Hurricanes late...
Highlanders outside back Connor Garden-Bachop warms up during a match against the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium in 2021. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH/FILE
Clark said the Highlanders would do everything they could to honour Garden-Bachop and support his family, including his father, former Highlanders and Otago first five Stephen Bachop.

He had no further details on the cause of the young outside back’s death, which has been listed as a medical event, or details of a funeral or memorial service.

Highlanders players continued to use social media yesterday to grieve for their team-mate.

Departing captain Billy Harmon shared a story of the time Garden-Bachop asked his skipper to make sure the Highlanders were playing towards the Zoo in the second half so he could come off the bench, score a try and celebrate in front of the students.

"Sure enough. Energy and confidence unmatched," Harmon wrote.

English first five Freddie Burns, now in Japan after one season with the Highlanders, wrote: "Rest in peace CGB. Thoughts with all his loved ones.’.

Sam Gilbert shared a photo of him and Garden-Bachop in their Lincoln University days and wrote: "So much love. Rest easy man".

Young lock Fabian Holland was in "utter disbelief" when he heard the news after arriving in London to play for the Barbarians.

"A mate, a father, a rugby player. But above all my brother. Have that same smile up there bro and let nobody take it away from you. Love you bud."

Motocross world champion Courtney Duncan, who has long been based in the same building as the Highlanders, shared an image of Garden-Bachop with the message "rest easy my friend".